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Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Being an expat as a family tradition

If you’re as big a fan of Bollywood cinema as I am, then you’ll have seen “Kabhi Kushi, Kabhie Gham”. In this movie, Rohan (beautifully played by the beautiful Hrithik Roshan) wants to go to London to find his brother Rahul (beautifully played by the beautiful Sharukh Khan). Their father, however, doesn’t approve of Rahul’s marriage to a woman of a lower cast (beautifully played by the beautiful Kajol), causing Rahul to move to London.

In the end, Rohan manages to persuade his father to let him go- by dropping a word that is of crucial importance to the wealthy Yash Raichand: tradition. Now, doesn’t it seem to you that going abroad and “tradition” mutually excludes each other?

At first glance, tradition is associated with having roots, with routine, with doing the same things every day, with some rules that everybody has to follow. And yet, for many families, the experience of living and working abroad has become a tradition in itself.

This is definitely the case with my family: my grandparents lived as diplomats in France and the Netherlands (and many other places). My parents travelled a lot with their families, and in the end went to live in Germany for 2 years. My parents-in-law lived and worked in France.

Multicultural marriages are also common within both of our families: my paternal grandmother is Ukrainian; my maternal grandfather was born in Lviv (which is now Ukrainian as well). My cousins are half-French. My husband’s family has roots in Poland, and his uncle is Persian.

So it seems that what I am doing is nothing shocking, or strange. I am only following a family tradition of living abroad. And, as I am married to a German man, I also followed the tradition of marrying someone from another country. It seems like such a paradox, doesn’t it?

But it isn’t. After all, each family creates their own traditions, on top on national and cultural traditions. Being an expat is my family’s tradition. And I love it.

I am also wondering how it will affect my children. Will they also become expats? I know it’s early to ask these kinds of questions, but I can’t help but wonder about this. There is a huge chance that this will be the case- see this great blog post that shows that children of expats often become expats themselves. I am curious to find out!

What about you? In becoming an expat, are you following a family tradition, or are you the first one to move abroad?  

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